A young man, in his early twenties, jerks awake at the second ring. He’s lying on his side, facing the blank white wall. A blue-checkered blanket hangs over one leg and half his body. At the third ring he throws the blanket off and stumbles while trying to stand. After navigating the mess of a room he finds the phone.
He turns toward the window, as the voice on the other side begins excitedly, the noise of the voice barely escaping into the solemn mess. He closes his eyes, the lean white body, the blue boxers covering him. The young man stands for a moment as if waiting for ice water to wash over him. He slumps to the floor and leans against the side of the old wooden desk, with his shoulder against the dark wood.
“No, I was awake. I’m just tired.”
He leans his head against the desk and closes his eyes as he listens to the voice on the line. His left hand rubs the four-inch scar on the inside of his right elbow.
“Seriously, don’t tell me this.”
He props the receiver in the crook of his neck, as he digs a small silver engraved lighter from a pair of stained pants next to him. He then shuffles through the papers on the desk, his hand over his head in a blind search and finds a pack of American Spirit’s. Bringing it back he opens the pack with his right thumb and uses his teeth to pull out a white cigarette with a brown-flecked filter.
“Why not? We haven’t talked in, what three months and you insist on telling me that shit.” He opens the pack and slowly lifts one of the death dealing cigarettes to his mouth. “No, I’m sorry, don’t worry about it…Yeah, I saw it… wasn’t a huge fan…”
He flips the lighter open and resting the cigarette lightly between his lips, Bogart holding Bergman style, begins to light yet stops and pulls the cigarette from his mouth. The cigarette not lit.
“Yeah? Really? Listen. That dog was never just yours. In fact I paid for its food almost every week. You can’t do it. The thing would have starved to death…”
He shuts the lighter and leans against the desk, putting the cigarette back between his lips. He doesn’t open his lighter.
“Yeah, I know, I have never been able to tell you anything. I mean its just too frickin hard for even kind advice to fall on such elegant and perfect ears as yours.” His face which had been hard and stormy, a twitch at the corner of his mouth showing a passing smile, now slackens to an almost boredom. The blue eyes traced the bed and dropped quickly to the scar, eyebrows drooping. The room’s white walls are empty of any decoration, with small almost imperceptible pinpricks where thumbtacks had once been.
“Ha!” His mouth only forming the word and carrying not possible mirth, the cigarette falls out of his mouth and lands on in his lap, “just don’t do anything till I can get down there to pick the pup up.” He grabs the cigarette and stands’, pulling the dirty pair of jeans on, then slides the lighter back into the pocket that was its home. Not a single piece of clothing lay in the drawer-less dresser, four of the drawers acted as pillars for the bed frame.
“Yeah, in a couple of weeks.”
He grabs the phone’s body with his left hand. A small tattoo, the width of a penny, sits between the thumb knuckle and pointer knuckle of the hand holding the body of the phone with the receiver still in the nook of his shoulder. He walks out of the bedroom, there is a wooden desk in the hallway outside his room piled high with dust covered papers and books. The long vanilla phone cord connected to the wall in his room behind the door catches under one of the feet of the desk and causes the young man to frown even deeper as the phone body stops. With his hand he swings at the phone cord once and gets it free. In the bathroom, the young man sets the phone body down on the rack over the toilet, and puts the cigarette on top of the phone body; he unzips and begins to piss.
“I’m glad you found a man who hates dogs.“
He grabs the phone with the hand that was freed when he set down the phone body.
“The sink’s running”
He shakes a few times, zips up and turns to the porcelain bowl and runs the water, washing only the hand used. “Different sink.”
“How long have the two of you been together?” Opening the medicine cabinet above the sink, he grabs the toothpaste and his toothbrush and closes the cabinet. “Yeah. I’m happy for you.”
He stares in the mirror for a moment then raises his eyebrows and puts the toothpaste on the brush and starts brushing. After three strokes he stops.
He spits a small bit of paste out of his mouth.
He turns on the faucet and washes the brush out.
“What did he do?”
He grabs the phone and cocks it away from his mouth, bends over and using his other hand for a cup fills his mouth with water.
“That’s insane, your dad is nuts.” A quick movement at his lips reveals the beginning of a smile, it becomes a twitch and the young man is back to his deep frown.
He grabs the cig from the top of the phone body with his right hand, puts it in his mouth, and grabs the lighter out of the stained jeans. Opening the lighter he looks down and sees a pair of used Q-tips sitting on the ground.
“Fucking q-tips. My boss does everything he can to convince me that I don’t need to go buy q-tips to clean that f-ing V.F.D. I mean – q-tips are only 2 bucks for a shit ton, and I come home to find my roommates q-tips on the fucking bathroom floor.”
He puts the lighter back into his pants and walks out of the bathroom moving toward the stairway, the vanilla phone cord trailing and the Q-tips still sitting on the floor in the bathroom under the still running sink. The rage slackens as he moves down the uneven blue stairs. “Yeah I’m not very clean either, and not pissed at my roommate, I’m still thinking about work. The place is driving me nuts. They give me a promotion and when I try to do something, they argue at every turn. Power gluttons.”
He opens the door leading to the green carpeted and couch filled room, the couches forming a ‘U’ in front of the TV, a littered coffee table sits in the ‘U’ close to the front of a flower print couch. Two of the couches are flower print, the other dark brown. Nestling the receiver in his shoulder, he picks up a couple empty beer cans and while carrying them into the kitchen he bumps the door jam and the stack falls.
He sets the phone body on the counter, the vanilla phone cord tracing its way around the corner and up the stairs, picks up the cans; all the while the receiver is couched in the crook of his neck. With a new stack of cans he walks past the fridge and stops by the oven where the dark green recycling bin sits half full of cans and bottles.
“Yeah, I’ve heard of it.”
Dropping the cans in the dark green bin. He opens the fridge and pulls out a slab of packaged bacon. The label touting this package to contain the amazing apple cinnamon flavored bacon.
“So you think that all this war shit will end if we just leave?” Pulling a pan from the cupboard and cutting open the packaging, the phone still in God’s nook and the white devil still bouncing in his lips as he talks. “How’d you two meet by the way?” At a knock at the door in the living room with the three couches, the young man turns, leaving the package of open bacon on the stovetop. Grabbing the phone body he walks through the living room to the door with a four by four diamond shaped window.
“Do you have a few minutes to talk?” A man in a solid dark blue suit with a white collared shirt and a crosshatched with blue shades tie says with eyebrows raised and a broad smile on his thin lips. A golden nametag states that his name is Micah.
“Fuck that! Really? You used to laugh in anyone’s face who said they met at a bar.” The young man grabs the phone from the crook of his neck and turns back to the kitchen, leaving the door open and Micah standing with eyebrows scrunched together and his smile wavering. As the young man wrestles the vanilla phone cord over the coffee table, Micah turns and leaves.
Placing the phone body on the kitchen table, he turns to the stove again. Laying the bacon, five thick strips across, on the Teflon, a black plastic disease coating. He stands shirtless, stained jeans before the electric range.
“What do you mean? I never said any of that.” He pulls a black spatula from a drawer and stands over the bacon as it begins to warm up; the bacon slowly begins to glisten, the bacon’s fat slowly turning from white to off-white. “I have said, ‘I hate talking politics with you because you can’t seem to differentiate between logic and jargon.’” A little grease begins to patter in the pan.
“No, I’m sorry, I shouldn’t be…” The kitchen is warm with the summer and the floating smell of apple cinnamon outweighs the cursory scent of old burnt cigarettes sitting in a small clay tray on the table. His hand is holding the spatula still, upraised, the muscles on his arm tense. He lowers the receiver for a moment, his blue eyes looking at it expectantly. His face is filled with a strange intensity, his lower lip covered by his upper and his eyebrows drawn down an inward. Veins on his forearm pop out, slowly his lifts the phone back to his ear. “Actually, I’m not sorry.” The words come out quiet. The uneven floor is still, his feet shift on the linoleum; the deep-set stains look ancient. His blue eyes awake, flaring, eyelids lifting while eyebrows not moving. His eyes wander the floral print on the wall behind the stove, studying intently the monotonous repeated pattern.
“I’m not sorry. Go, cry your heart out, I will not listen to your jargon anymore, your bullshit. Finally I’m done with your god-forsaken petty heart.” His voice is still quiet; he turns slightly, his blue eyes finding the window over the sink, his blue eyes bright, brighter than the gleam from the glint of a dish in the sink. His face breaks into an anger different from rage.
“I mean fuck. How is it that I have ever been sorry these past months? How is it? I mean you were supposed to be my stars. You were supposed to be my Fucking moon! Wasn’t that what you said to me so many times?” The question escapes his lips in a shout. “What else did you promise me? You were supposed to be my everything, you were supposed to be my heart, my rose, the definition of a rose, and instead…fuck” the blue eyes glisten slightly, the whites of his eyes a barely perceptible rosy, the beginning of red. “Instead,” his voice lowers, his hand brings the spatula up as if to ward off something, “you spend a year and half with me, building up my reality to create the worst possible gorge in a human heart.” The spatula falls and the young man stands, naked to the waist, the slim body strong and taut. “You found me to be less than even the worms that your fucking dog had. You decided I was nothing more than a heap of inorganic shit. I used to think you were elegant. The idea of elegance haunts me now. No, I am not fucking sorry and I will not live your expected life of ever wanting you.”
The blue eyes clear and strong, the young man sets the receiver down on the phone body, he slowly, with the love tattoo on his hand, pulls the vanilla phone cord out of the phone body. He turns and begins to flip the apple cinnamon bacon; slowly the face of the young man lightens and a smile floats easily to his lips. The smell of apple cinnamon wafts through the air and is joined by curling tendrils of smoke as he lights the cigarette.